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Odishatv Bureau

New Delhi: Amid unrest on campuses such as the JNU and Jamia Millia, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not have the guts to face students and challenged him to visit any university in the country without police and talk to students on the state of the economy and joblessness.

Modi was "doing the biggest disservice" to the nation by dividing it and distracting the attention of people by raising issues such as the CAA and the NRC and not the key matters of the economy and unemployment, he said.

The former Congress president alleged that the prime minister did not have the guts to face students and talk to them on the state of the economy and that was why he crushed them using the police.

The voice of the youth was legitimate and should be heard, he said on the student protests across the country.

There is anger among youngsters due to the prevailing economic situation and the problem of unemployment as they see that their future is bleak, Gandhi told reporters here after a meeting of the Opposition convened by Congress president Sonia Gandhi that was attended by the leaders of 20 parties.

"The fact (is) that thousands and thousands of students across the country, (from) all religions, all communities, have come out. There is a feeling of anger and fear in our students, in the weaker sections, in the farmers," Gandhi said.

The reason behind this fear was a complete failure of the government on the economic and employment front, he added.

"Narendra Modi should stand up and have the courage to speak to the youngsters in these universities and tell them why the Indian economy has become a disaster. Why it has become a basket case and why we have the highest unemployment in 50 years," Gandhi said.

"I challenge the prime minister right now to go to any university, stand over there without his police, without his infrastructure and tell the people what is he going to do for this country," he added.

Asserting that the opportunity India had was lost, the former Congress chief said everything except the main issue of joblessness and economic strength was being discussed.

The economy of the country was destroyed by Modi through "demonetization part-I and part-II", Gandhi said, referring to the note ban of 2016 and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), National Population Register (NPR) and the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) -- exercises that he recently termed "notebandi no. 2".

The government's job was to provide a vision to the country but it had failed in doing this and hence, the anger was rising in the universities, among youngsters and farmers, Gandhi said, adding that instead of addressing these issues, Modi was trying to distract and divide the country.

But the people of the country understood that Modi had failed on economy, on employment, on securing the future of India, he claimed.

The prime minister should answer the questions about the future of the country, how youngsters would get employment and how the Indian economy would be back on track once again, Gandhi said.

Stating that the "spirit of resistance has awoken", the opposition parties called for repealing the CAA and "immediate stoppage of the NRC/NPR" as the "package" was unconstitutional and targeted the poor and downtrodden.

The meeting saw chinks in the opposition ranks with six major parties -- DMK, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Trinamool Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and Shiv Sena -- choosing to stay away from it.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D Raja, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren of the JMM and LJD chief Sharad Yadav were among those who attended the meeting.

(PTI)

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